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  Wife of Former Shah of Iran Dies

The Associated Press
Thursday, Oct. 25, 2001; 9:29 p.m. EDT

PARIS –– Princess Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari, the second wife of the former Shah of Iran, has died in Paris, a former Iranian official close to the family said Thursday. She was 69.

She died in her Paris apartment, according to an ex-minister of the shah, A.M. Madjidi. The cause and date of death were unclear.

The princess, who was renowned for her beauty, was born June 22, 1932, to a German mother and a father who was a member of Iran's powerful Bakhtiari family.

She met Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in Tehran, Iran, in 1950, and married him on Feb. 12, 1951, following his divorce from Egyptian Princess Fawzia, sister of King Farouk. In one German television interview, she described their first meeting as "love at first sight."

After they failed to have children, the shah divorced her in 1958. Though she lost the title of empress, the shah conferred on her the title of "royal princess" at the time of the divorce.

Pahlavi later married a French-educated architecture student, Farah, who became empress, bearing four children during their two-decade-long marriage.

The shah died of cancer in 1980 after being swept from the throne by the Islamic revolution. One of the shah's daughters, 31-year-old Leila, died in London in June from a drug overdose.

After the divorce, Soraya traveled extensively in Europe, aspiring at one point to a movie career. She settled in Paris in the mid-1970s, living in a luxury apartment near the Champs-Elysees.

The princess also lived briefly in Mexico after Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979 amid concerns for her safety.

The story of her divorce inspired French songwriter Francoise Mallet-Jorris to write "Je Veux Pleurer Comme Soraya" (I Want to Cry Like Soraya). She also published an autobiography in 1991, "Le Palais des Solitudes" (Palace of Solitude).

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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